Wacom vs XP-Pen tablets

Is Wacom still the king of tablet brands?

Written: 
September 21, 2021
Last Updated: 
September 21, 2021
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Wacom is the old king of the tablet scene, but in recent years many new brands have arisen to challenge it, XP-Pen among them. Does Wacom deserve its reputation as being way above the competition, or has XP-Pen caught up to it?
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Since digital tablets were invented, Wacom has had a position at the forefront of the industry.

But XP-Pen didn't start off with the best reputation, as it rose out of a sea of similar companies selling the same cheap re-branded tablets - eventually though, it separated itself from the pack, and cultivated a respectable reputation as a high-quality brand. 

Because of their very different beginnings, their products have very different prices - but I'm not sure it's justified.

While I think Wacom's quality is marginally better than XP-Pens, I would still personally buy XP-pen over Wacom - their quality is quite close and their tablets are functionally the same, but their prices are often half of Wacom's.

I myself recently switched from Wacom to a Huion, a similar brand to XP-pen, and I'm really happy with that decision. Nearly all of my buddies who have switched from Wacom to either XP-Pen or Huion have also been happy with their decision.

Here are my up-front recommendations:

XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro

Recommended Screen Tablet
I would go for a XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro if I wanted a screen tablet from either Wacom or XP-Pen

I like working on a 15.6" screen. It's comfortable for painting, doesn't take up the whole desk, and it's even portable if needed. As long as you use a keyboard with it, it's got all the functionality you need to make professional-quality art work - on top of being affordable and reliable.

<button-link>Check the Price of the Artist 15.6 Pro<button-link>

XP-Pen Deco 01 V2

Recommended Drawing Tablet
If I had a lower budget or didn't want a screen, I would get the Deco 01 V2

The Deco 01V2 is also a nice size - small enough to be flexible around your workspace, portable and easy to store, but big enough to be able to draw from the shoulder and elbow.  No screen might make it trickier for someone who wants to draw accurate linework, but you can undoubtedly make professional art work on it.

<button-link>Check the Price of the Deco 01 V2<button-link>

Read on for an in-depth breakdown of how XP-Pen stacks up against Wacom.


Brand perception

Wacom and XP-Pen are definitely perceived very differently as brands.

Wacom's been around since 1983 - in that time it has established itself as the industry standard for professional digital artists.  For a long time it was really the only viable brand for professionals, as no one else was making anything reliable and feature-rich enough.

Because Wacom has been in the game for such a long time and continuously made higher quality products than their competitors, they’ve built up a lot of trust with their customers. This is why you may see the opinion ‘Wacom is the only brand worth getting’ plenty of times online - because for a long time, it really was the only brand worth getting.

Xp pen was founded in Japan in 2005, and started off selling re-branded generic tablets that other companies were also selling (such as Huion), that weren’t of particularly high quality. You may see older opinions online that reflect this, talking down XP-Pen’s quality.

Eventually XP-Pen began designing their own tablets, increasing their product quality - now they have a product line that actually competes with Wacom’s.

Quality Differences

A lot of the information and opinions you’ll find online about Wacom and XP-Pen are, in my view, a little outdated.

Wacom’s quality has degraded slightly over the years, with things like nibs wearing down extremely quickly, connections becoming loose and dysfunctional, failing drivers and undetectable stylus’.

At the same time, XP-Pen has been improving its quality a lot, and while I dont think it has reached Wacom quite yet, it creeps closer every year.

Price Differences

Wacom's prices can be so high that sometimes they are more than double the price of the XP-Pen equivalent.

With XP-Pen's quality getting better and better with time, and complaints about Wacom's quality (in comparison to their older models) growing in count - the price difference between them is becoming harder to justify by the minute.

This can even be seen in the pricing of each of their nibs - tiny, simple little rods of plastic:

XP-Pen charges $9.99 for 100 nibs in their USA store, and £9.99 for 50 in the UK.

Wacom nibs cost around $5 for 5 - that’s 10 times the price of XP-Pen nibs - Wacom really does charge a premium for its brand.

Functional Differences

Wacom Pro tablets come with multi-touch functionality

Both Intuos and Cintiq Pro have multi-touch, which can allow you to use gestures to speed up your workflow - I’ve found that using touch functions is slower than using a keyboard, but it is extremely useful if you are working without a keyboard.

XP-Pen has only just started making tablets with multi-touch, recently releasing it’s very first touch enabled 16” display tablet.

New Wacom Cintiq’s have no buttons, and nearly all XP-Pens have plenty

For comfortable painting on a Wacom Cintiq you’ll need either a keyboard, Wacom’s own ‘Express Key Remote’ or you’ll have to splash out on a Cintiq Pro to get touch functionality.

Nearly all XP-Pen pen screen tablets have buttons on one or both sides of the tablet, depending on the model. If you use a keyboard you probably won’t need the buttons, but they make it much easier to paint without a keyboard.

More Wacom tablets use Bluetooth and wireless connectivity than XP-Pen  

Cintiqs have many wires, but most Wacom Intuos are completely wireless - this contrasts against most XP-Pen tablets which are wired.

Having a wired tablet obviously impacts how you can have your workspace set up, as well as just being a little messy to have on your desk.

Wacom has a common driver issue

With both of the Wacom tablets I’ve owned, and multiple friends have experienced the same, the drivers sometimes fail out of nowhere and the tablet will stop working.  You have to go into your Windows Services and restart the Wacom service to get your tablet working again, or restart your pc.

This is a specific issue that I have personal experience with so I feel I have to mention it - it’s a really frustrating problem, and seems to have persisted unfixed for years.

Something I did notice is that both Wacom and XP-Pen driver software have 3-point calibration for the stylus’ pressure sensitivity, which is great.  Huion, another popular tablet brand, currently only offers 2-point calibration and it’s harder to get your pressure just right.

Customer Service and After Purchase Care

It’s easy to buy nibs for both brands, and from my experience they are rarely out of stock in their stores.

However, as I mentioned earlier, XP-Pen is much, much more generous than Wacom - they supply 100 nibs (or only 50, depending where you are in the world) for the same price you'll get 10 from Wacom.

In comparison to XP-Pen, Wacom’s customer support does seem to be more responsive and effective, depending on the issue at hand.  People online are generally more positive in their opinions of dealing with Wacom’s support.

There’s a fair amount of XP-Pen customer complaints online after dealing with their customer service.
If the solution to your problem is a simple one, then they will provide help in timely manner, but more complicated issues can result in slow communication and ultimately frustration.

Accessories

In case their ranges of accessories are important to you:

Both Wacom and XP-Pen provide component replacements in their stores as well as some further accessories, but Wacom stands out as having a broader range.  Both sell a range of stylus’, cases, cables and leads, stands, nibs and more.

XP-Pen’s accessories are usually cheaper (especially those nibs!)

Conclusion

I honestly struggle to think of a really good reason to buy a Wacom over a modern XP-Pen tablet.  If money was absolutely no object at all and I had an infinite budget, in that case I would buy a Wacom just because their customer service has a better reputation, and they have a longer track record of quality than XP-Pen.

But money is a factor and I don’t have an infinite budget - I would basically always go for the XP-Pen option over the Wacom.

With Wacom, you do get extras - things like touch and Bluetooth that I don't really use. Most other people will also use a keyboard like I do, making touch and Bluetooth kind of useless for them too.

I would personally purchase the XP-Pen option, keep the money I saved and upgrade my tablet twice as often.  I think that's well worth it, enabling you to keep your workspace more up to date, or keep a money buffer in case your tablet gets damaged and you have to pay for a replacement.

My XP-Pen tablet recommendations:

XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro
Recommended Screen Tablet
I would go for a XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro if I wanted a screen tablet from either Wacom or XP-Pen

I like working on a 15.6" screen. It's comfortable for painting, doesn't take up the whole desk, and it's even portable if needed. As long as you use a keyboard with it, it's got all the functionality you need to make professional-quality art work - on top of being affordable and reliable.

<button-link>Check the Price of the Artist 15.6 Pro<button-link>

XP-Pen Deco 01 V2
Recommended Drawing Tablet
If I had a lower budget or didn't want a screen, I would get the Deco 01 V2

The Deco 01V2 is also a nice size - small enough to be flexible around your workspace, portable and easy to store, but big enough to be able to draw from the shoulder and elbow.  No screen might make it trickier for someone who wants to draw accurate linework, but you can undoubtedly make professional art work on it.

<button-link>Check the Price of the Deco 01 V2<button-link>

Hey, I'm Christopher

I started making digital art in 2009, and became a full-time freelance artist in 2016, able to work on my own schedule from anywhere in the world.

Now, I want to help young artists make the same journey!

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